STA, 16 August 2019 - Amid escalating tensions over action in response to a growing number of wolf attacks on farm animals in Slovenia, 13,462 people have signed a petition urging against the planned culling of bears and wolves.
The petition, initiated by the animal rights group AniMa, was handed to Environment Minister Simon Zajc on Friday to "have the voice of reason heard when it comes to man's coexistence with bears and wolves".
The initiator of the petition, Andreja Galinec, reported with disappointment after the meeting that "we failed to prevent the culling".
"The answer we received was that the culling will not be halted," Nevenka Lukić Rojšek of AniMa said.
According to the ministry, Minster Zajc stressed at the meeting the the emergency act on culling was "addressing the burning issue of bear and wolf overpopulation and was needed at this moment to get the numbers back to a level that is also favourable for the local human population".
Zajc also announced he would inquire with his ministerial colleagues in the EU if there was a chance of one of the European countries accepting Slovenian bears and wolves.
He added the issue of overpopulation and management of bear and wolf populations needed to be removed from the realm of politics and returned to experts as soon as possible.
Danes mi je društvo AniMa izročilo peticijo proti odstrelu. Povedal sem jim, da je ta zdaj potreben! Po tem pa vztrajam: nujno mora o strokovnih vprašanjih odločati stroka in nikoli več politika. Posebej taka, ki ni za to vprašanje naredila nič, ko je imela priložnost! pic.twitter.com/rNAwnuU5C4— Simon Zajc (@zajc_si) August 16, 2019
The group had proposed that the government immediately issue a moratorium on the emergency act regulating the culling and form a task force to analyse the state of affairs and find solutions that would not be dictated by political pressure.
Urging long-term measures to preserve wildlife and protect farm animals, the group says that Slovenia needs to preserve its population of wild animals as a key to preserve the balance of nature.
"Hunters have been interfering too much in this balance, and the price is now being paid by farmers, who a while ago demanded the culling of deer because of the damage to their crops," they say.
Arguing that there are also those among "the 22,000 armed people considered hunters" who use hunting as "a profitable business and cruel entertainment at the expense of animals", they believe that hunting for deer should be restricted and much better controlled, while subsidies for farm animal production in wolf and bear habitats should be made conditional on preventive measures.
"We urge the government not to be held hostage by a small interest group that demands violent solutions now, without considering long-term consequences. Slovenia is us too who disagree with the culling of bears and wolves, and there are many of us," the petitioners say.
The number of wolf attacks on farm animals has more than doubled this year over the same period in 2018, after an NGO successfully challenged in court the government's 2018 decree ordering the removal of 175 bears and 11 wolves from the wild.
Data from the Institute for Forests show that nearly 680 animals had been attacked by the end of July, but the number has increased since as new attacks are reported almost on a daily basis.
To tackle the situation, parliament passed a law in June ordering an emergency culling, but while hunters have killed 75 bears, the complex rules have prevented them from culling any wolves yet.
Following a protest by farmers on Saturday, changes have been agreed to facilitate the culling.
There are an estimated 1,000 bears and 80 wolves in the country. Most of the wolves live in 14 packs, while some live alone.
While there have been two attacks by bears on humans so far this year, Miha Krofel of the Ljubljana Biotechnical Faculty has told the STA that there is no confirmed case of a wolf hurting a human in Slovenia on record.
STA, 14 August 2019 - A she-bear with a cub attacked a hunter in the woods in the municipality of Ajdovščina, south-west, on Tuesday evening while he approached it unaware of its presence, the Nova Gorica Police Department said in a release on Wednesday.
The police explained the 67-year-old hunter had sat under a tree when he noticed a 150-kilogramme bear with a cub some 10 metres away.
The bear attacked him, biting his leg and scratching his head and body when the hunter started to yell to chase it away.
He sought medical assistance at the local emergency unit on his own, but the injuries were not as severe to require hospitalisation, so he is recovering at home.
The Forest Service, one of the main national organisations in charge of wild animal populations, was notified of the attack to take required measures.
However, analysing the attack it said it was a result of an unlucky coincidence when a hunter ran into a bear with a cub.
And since the incident occurred in the forest rather than near a town, the bear was assessed not to be aggressive so it will be monitored rather than culled.
This was a second bear attack on people this year, said the Forest Service, adding a long-term average is two to three attacks a year.
The first took place at the end of June, when an 80-year-old woman was attacked by a female bear with two cubs near her village some 15 kilometres south of Ljubljana.
Hunters were then ordered to kill the bear and both of its cubs, but could not do it because activists prevented the decree from being implemented.
Once the decree expired, the Forest Service decided not to extend it because there were no other encounters with the bear.
Just two days before this year's first bear attack, parliament passed an emergency bill to reduce the bear and wolf populations by 200 and eleven, respectively.
The law was needed to end the deadlock resulting from the Administrative Court banning bear culling upon an NGO's appeal against a government decree.
This resulted in the bear populations growing rapidly, to some 1,000, whereas the wolf population is estimated at around 80.
But the emergency law has been severely criticised by farmers and hunters, as wolf and bear attacks are continuing.
Hunters have culled 75 bears under the emergency law but not a single wolf since severe restrictions apply to wolf hunting, so they risk high fines.
The rules were somewhat loosened at yesterday's high-profile meeting hosted by the environment minister.
STA, 5 August 2019 - The Jurišče village near Pivka in south-western Slovenia saw a mass wolf attack on sheep on Sunday. The Slovenian Farmers' Trade Union has announced a protest to draw attention to the issue of such attacks becoming more frequent, saying Slovenia could not cope with the current number of wild animals.
Between 15 and 20 wolves slaughtered 12 sheep during the night and injured another 10 despite protective measures, including fencing and shepherd dogs.
A number of injured sheep will have to be put down, and one of shepherd dogs was also hurt during the attack.
Without the dogs, the attack could have been even more deadly, Florjan Peternelj of the Farmers' Trade Union told the STA on Monday.
He pointed out that Slovenia could not handle so many wild animals as there are currently in the country, highlighting the recent spike in wolf and bear attacks.
According to studies, Slovenia can cope with some 100 bears and two wolf packs at most, he said, adding that any extra animals could not survive because of a lack of food.
There are some 100 wolves in Slovenia, and the attacks have been on the rise because Administrative Court orders on culling had not been carried out due to appeals by NGOs.
An emergency bill authorising hunters to shoot 175 bears and 11 wolves was passed in parliament in June. Some bears have already been culled, but no wolves.
In the wake of these attacks becoming increasingly frequent, the trade union will organise a protest in Velike Lašče, south of Ljubljana, on Saturday.
It invites, according to Peternelj, all affected farmers and people who would like to fight for a safer countryside.
July 1, 2019
The hunt for the bear who attacked an 80-year-old woman in Želimlje last week was called off at the end of Sunday, when the deadline for hunters to track and kill the mother bear and her two cubs expired.
On Saturday the bear broke into a beehive not far from where the woman was attacked, but this did not meet the criteria for the hunt to be extended.
For now the three bears will continue to live unbothered by hunters unless the mother attacks another person.
It has been declared that the mother bear with two cubs who on Saturday morning attacked an 80-year-old woman outside her home in Vrh nad Želimljami, a village about 15 kilometres south of Ljubljana, will be shot. The culling decree stays valid till next Sunday, while people from the Škofljica area have been asked to stay inside, especially in the early morning and evening hours.
This wasn't the bear's first attack on a human in the area. Last Sunday the bear charged at a jogger who managed to run away after startling her by firing a blank from a gun.
Video of the bear running across the neighbour's playground on the morning before the attack. The video was filmed by the woman’s neighbour, the former environmental minister, Jure Leben
The attack occurred amid the farmers’ protests due to large predator attacks on their sheep, prompting the National Assembly’s confirmation of an intervention law aimed at the growing populations of brown bear and wolf in the country. According to the law, 200 bears and 11 wolves are to be culled this year. Such interventions have been so far declared by a decree but have not been carried out due to a judicial delay.
STA, 22 June 2019 - An 80-year-old woman suffered moderate injuries when a female bear with cubs attacked her near her home in Vrh nad Želimljami, a village about 15 kilometres south of Ljubljana, early on Saturday morning, police said.
The woman was taken to the University Medical Centre in Ljubljana. She suffered only light injuries from the attack and was not bitten, but she fractured her hip when she fell to the ground, according to news portal 24ur.
Mitja Spindler, the head of the Škofljica Hunting Club, told 24ur that two elderly locals had heard what they thought were cries for help in the early morning hours and went outside.
When the woman entered the back yard, the bear came running towards her, knocked her over and started pouncing. The animal was scared away by the woman's husband when he started to scream for help.
According to Spindler, the animal had recently tried to attack a jogger in a nearby forest but he had a blank pistol on him and scared the animal away.
The authorities have activated a special Slovenia Forest Service task force trained to take out dangerous bears. The animal will be culled.
If her cubs are under a year old, they will be culled as well because they cannot survive alone. If they are older, they will be spared, according to Spindler.
The attack comes in the midst of heated debates about Slovenia's growing bear population, which is located mostly in the south-west of the country, although individual bears have been sighted on the outskirts of Ljubljana as well.
Just this week the National Assembly passed an emergency law to cull 200 bears and 11 wolves, its original culling decree having been successfully challenged by environmentalists in court.
The passage of the law was prompted by the increasingly frequent attack on livestock, which has triggered several protests by farmers.
Animal researchers support the cull as well, arguing that the population, now estimated to number 1000 animals, is too big for its own good, as frequent attacks risked undermining public acceptance of the species.
Attacks remain rare, however. One to two are recorded each year, and even then people mostly sustain moderate injuries. The last fatal case was recorded several decades ago.
STA, 16 June 2019 - The National Assembly will discuss the opposition-sponsored motion to oust Defence Minister Karl Erjavec as it convenes two sessions this week. The opposition Democrats (SDS) believe that Erjavec abused the military intelligence service and unlawfully dismissed the army's force commander. Erjavec appears to enjoy sufficient support to stay on.
Pressure on Erjavec has been rising because a parliamentary commission investigating Erjavec's alleged abuse of the intelligence service has interviewed the dismissed Force Commander Miha Škerbinc last week.
Škerbinc's appearance before the Commission for the Oversight of Intelligence and Security Services behind closed doors on Thursday allegedly showed that Erjavec had been lying about the reasons for Škerbinc's dismissal.
Commission chair Žan Mahnič, an MP for the SDS, said that Škerbinc had provided a report by Chief of the General Staff Alenka Ermenc showing that Škerbinc had not broken the chain of command as regards late-night shooting at training grounds near Postojna.
Commenting on a report by Ermenc saying that the military had been following closely the ministry's order about activities on the training ground, Prime Minister Marjan Šarec said on Friday that Erjavec will have to explain what happened.
The prime minister however also said that the parliamentary commission was a political body. "It has an investigative role but there is a thin line between having powers and abusing powers," the prime minister said, echoing Erjavec's position that the commission had abused its powers for political purposes.
Moreover, Mahnič said that Škerbinc told the commission he had not spread rumours about Ermenc's ill health, which was another reason cited by Erjavec after the dismissal.
Škerbinc said that he had 200 witnesses to prove that he did not spread lies, according to Mahnič, who said that the former force commander told the commission that he condemned the rumours about her poor health that had been going around in an address.
Before debating the motion to oust Erjavec in a dedicated session on Friday, the National Assembly will convene a regular session starting on Monday with questions time for the government.
Other business: Apppointments, energy infrastructure, private schools, bear & wolf culls, tobacco sales
On Tuesday, the MPs will take a vote on the reappointment of Information Commissioner Mojca Prelesnik, the appointment of Rok Čeferin to the Constitutional Court and the appointment of Peter Golob as Electoral Commission chairman.
Moreover, the MPs will conduct the second reading of changes to the energy act transposing two relevant EU regulations and changing compensation procedures for the construction of public energy infrastructure, which was ordered by the Constitutional Court.
The most heated debates can be expected on Wednesday, when parliament is scheduled to launch the first reading of legislative changes drafted to implement a decision by the Constitutional Court ordering the National Assembly to provide equal funding to private primary schools.
Private schools, as well as the opposition Democrats (SDS) and New Slovenia (NSi) believe the changes do not transpose the decision of the Constitutional Court.
On Thursday, MPs are expected to pass a emergency bill ordering the culling of bears and wolves in the wake of attacks on farm animals and increasingly frequent sightings after an environmental NGO successfully challenged the government's decree with the same cull order in Administrative Court.
The parliament is also expected to fast-track changes to the tobacco act postponing by three years the introduction of uniform packaging for tobacco products, initially planned for January 2020. The proponents of the changes want to conduct studies whether the measure is actually effective.
STA, 12 June 2019 - The government adopted an intervention bill ordering the culling of overgrown bear and wolf populations on Wednesday. The move comes after a decree with the same order was successfully challenged by an environmental NGO in Administrative Court, leading to a steep increase in wolf and bear attacks on farm animals this year.
The bill stipulates the "removal" of 200 bears, of which 175 are to be culled, while the rest is expected to perish naturally or in car accidents or other incidents. Moreover, 11 wolves are to be culled.
Slovenia is home to 12 wolf packs, each five to ten strong, Agriculture Minister Aleksandra Pivec said as she announced this bill earlier this week. She also said that wolves alone had killed 72 sheep, 19 cows, 15 horses, a donkey and two other farm animals this year.
Slovenia's bear population, which was on the brink of extinction in early 20th century, is estimated at about 1,000, whereas a population of some 400 bears is deemed optimal.
While bear attacks have also caused significant damage in agriculture, with livestock herds decimated in some cases, the government also says that there is a significant risk of bear attacks on humans.
Experts believe that Slovenia's bear population has reached a number that should not be exceeded, underlining that acceptance of big carnivores by the population is key in successful management of their population.
Slovenia has been nearing a boiling point in this respect, with farmers and agricultural associations staging rallies to protest against the government's inaction in the face of their decimated herds.
The bill, drafted by the Ministry of Agriculture, has been filed by the Ministry of Environment, which is in charge of large carnivores management in Slovenia.
Meanwhile, the parliamentary environment and agriculture committees will hold a joint session this afternoon to discuss the attacks of bears and wolves on livestock.
STA, 29 May 2019 - Several local civil initiatives demand legislative changes and an immediate cull of bears and wolves in areas where livestock is being attacked, in what is an escalation of long-simmering tensions over how to deal with Slovenia's growing population of large carnivores.
In a letter addressed to Prime Minister Marjan Šarec earlier this week, three civil initiatives demand that hunters immediately shoot the number of bears and wolves designate for culling by the Forest Service.
They also want jackal, whose numbers have been growing rapidly in recent years, to be designated as game animal.
The appeal is the latest instalment of a long dispute that has pitted environmentalists against farmers, scientists and hunters in a fight over what to do with large game in Slovenia.
The bear and wolf population is kept in check with an annual cull and this year the Forest Service proposed that 200 bears be shot, a decision based on scientific estimates of the bear population. Wolves are not slated for culling this year.
But environmentalists challenged the subsequent government decree at the Administrative Court, which refrained from deciding on the cull as such but ordered the government to adopt a new decree setting the number of animals slated for culling.
In the meantime, farmers are reporting increasing damage by bears and wolves and have recently staged a protest in Ljubljana bringing cadavers of animals killed by bears.
The civil initiatives from Kočevje, Notranjska and Primorska, areas in western Slovenia that are home to Slovenia's bear population, now demand that the government also change the law to give expert institutions including the Forest Service, Hunting Association and Chamber of Agriculture and Forestry exclusive say over culling.
Related: In Search of Brown Bears in Slovenia
"The decision-making procedure must be exempt from the legal frameworks of the administrative procedure law and preclude the option of appeal from anyone," the associations said.
Locals would have majority say in any culling decisions and no projects involving large carnivores or other game would be possible without local approval.
Another major demand is to bring the population levels of large carnivores, deer and wild boar to 1990 levels to reduce damage to forests and farmland.
Slovenia is considered by many as a role model for management of large carnivores, but its linchpin has been the regular culling of a very healthy and growing population.
From near extinction in the early 20th century, the population rose to an estimated 700 animals by 2015, according to data by the Biotechnical Faculty.
Scientists have warned that acceptance by locals is key to management as well, with Klemen Jerina, one of the most prominent bear researchers in Slovenia, recently saying that they support the cull of 200 animals.
"But we've come to a point where we believe there are enough bears. If the number continues to grow, the number of conflicts will increase as well," he said in February.
Environmentalists, on the other hand, base their opposition to the cull on the animals' inherent right to live.
STA, 26 April 2019 - The Farmers' Trade Union staged a protest on Friday, demanding that the government take immediate action, as a growing bear population is causing considerable damage to herds. Agriculture Ministry State Secretary Marko Maver promised farmers that an extraordinary kill measure would be ordered to mitigate the situation.
The protest was staged ten days after the Administrative Court sided with an environmental NGO that challenged the ministry's order to kill 200 bears this year.
The bear population is estimated at 750 in Slovenia, while in the early 1990s it was at 350. Currently, the population expands by 200 bears a year and could reach nearly 1,000 by the end of the year unless 200 are killed or relocated.
Unionist Roman Žveglič said that the ministry staff had listened carefully and promised to launch the measure of extraordinary killing in places where bears were causing the most damage.
Maver told the press that the ministry understood the distress of farmers. "We are all aware of the importance of sustainable management of bear population."
The ministry will moreover appeal the Administrative Court's decision and is drafting "additional documents on why the proposed number is justified," said Maver.
Žveglič said that in case the ministry failed to provide assistance, farmers would stage civil disobedience. "This means that we will start hunting wild animals ourselves, poisoning and shooting them."
At the rally, staged in front of the ministry, Florjan Peternel, a farmer from Ilirska Bistrica (SW), brought with him the remains of calves attacked by bears.
Until recently, his herd had no calves due to bear attacks in 2017 and 2018. "A fortnight ago, calvings started and 15 cows had calves. But yesterday, disaster struck. None survived."
All our stories about bears in Slovenia can be found here